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A solution of the problem may be attempted by examining the separate issues involved. The first step in our inquiry will be to discuss the nature of the coming Peace Conference. It will thereby appear that we must ascertain two points: whether the Pope is a temporal sovereign, and whether he deserves representation as the supreme teacher of morals. If, then, the Pope is not now a temporal sovereign, should he be made one? What, finally, are the mutual relations of the Pope's temporal power and the world's peace?
The Peace Conference is often thought of as a meeting of attorneys for the contending parties before an impartial court for a decision to which both parties agree to submit. A meeting of this kind naturally implies a referee, and the Pope by process of elimination alone remains as a candidate for the judicial post.
Such has been the nature of some previous councils and it may be of this. But indications point to the contrary. There is today no single person possessing the absolute sovereignty which the successful performance of such a function requires. The parties will indeed rest their cases only under one of two conditions. The first is a military superiority and readiness to employ it so genuine and generally realized that the conference will be a forced agreement, requiring no guarantee for observance other than a continuation of the relation which first created it. The other is a common consent to a basis of settlement independently but concurrently reached by the various nations, so deeply fixed that it will be observed apart from the actions of political leaders because of the unanimity of spirit in which the agreement was reached. If, however, both parties should touch a level of exhaustion in which they become indifferent to the purposes for which the conflict began, or both should wish to postpone the military decision, an opportunity would then be created for a referee. This, after America's entry into the war, is an infinitely remote contingency, and our inquiry will be confined to the more probable conditions under which the conference will be called.
These premises allow only those who have borne the heat of the battle to share in the victory. Only those will be admitted to the conference who have hazarded their interest in the conflict or who have such considerable interests, vitally affected by the decision, that dissatisfaction with the event on the part of the power not previously involved would constitute a menace to the successful development of the agreement. With the United States drawn into the conflict, it appears probable that there will be no parties outside the agreement to embarrass its realization except possibly the Pope.
The Papacy has on the whole, according to the opinion of political experts, lent its support to the Central Powers, and, following the tradition of the Vatican, it might have been expected. Such an attitude also results from the sentiment of the Allies toward Rome. Italy was never a whole-hearted adherent of the Triple Alliance, which was merely a convenient arrangement for mutual defense, not so much against outsiders, as against the aggression of any of its component members. United Italy was created in opposition to papal rule and until recent years, when the common cause of antagonism to socialism drove the monarchy and the Vatican to a clandestine agreement on certain points, Italy was the natural foe of the Roman Church, and her enemies the friends of the Church.
The modern doctrine which opposed interference on the part of the ecclesiastical power in secular concerns, has been greatly strengthened by Italy's course of action, and her motives for so doing have been intensified. It is interesting to remember that what purported to be the secret treaty outlining the conditions on which Italy entered the war was published by the Maximalist leaders at Petrograd on November 28th. The very first article of this treaty, according to the translation of the London Times on November 30th, declared: "France, Great Britain and Russia take it upon themselves to support Italy in her not allowing representatives of the Holy See to take any diplomatic steps for the conclusion of peace or in regard to matters pertaining to the present war." On the 6th of December in the House of Commons Lord Cecil in answer to a question whether England and
France were pledged to assist Italy against the Holy See if the latter should take measures toward peace, replied in the negative, and at the same time stated that the Allies held President Wilson's note adequate response to the Pontiff's peace note. In reply to a more explicit interpellation in the Italian Chamber Borsarelli returned a written statement to the same effect.
The English Government, however, has since asserted in the House of Commons that it will not act in the Roman question contrary to Italy's wishes, and this much at least is clear; it is pretty well recognized that the intervention or participation of the Vatican in the peace negotiations is opposed by the Allies and supported by the German party because they think it against the Allied interests.
The policy of resistance to Roman participation in international decisions was firmly established by the refusal of the Powers to admit the papal envoy to the Hague Conference in 1899 and succeeding events have not tended to change it. On the contrary, the breaking of relations with the Vatican by France in July, 1906, has immensely fortified this doctrine.
To say that only those whose interests are involved will share in the peace conference is equivalent to saying that only international parties will share in this international decision. It will be a political gathering for the conclusion of a political settlement when the appeal to physical force has brought one side to the point where it cannot or will not persist further. Such a political discussion does not, of course, end with purely political consequences. A train of social, economic, and religious effects is involved at each step. But the weight of these factors must be anticipated and exerted before the international conference, because in the world of distinct nationalities as we know it today all other issues are antecedent parts of the national entity which contracts external relations through its political organization. Thus, according to legal theory, the Pope should share in the peace conference if he is a temporal sovereign, for otherwise he is not an international person.
Is the Pope a temporal sovereign? It is commonly thought that the Pontiff, guaranteed the rights and inviolability of a temporal ruler, and endowed with these prerogatives for centuries, is such a sovereign. It is the Ultramontane position, which today prevails among Roman writers; for the Gallican theory, by professing which the English Romanists were freed from their civil disabilities, has been anathematized. As long as the matter remains one of legal theory only, with decreasing practical consequences, its exponents have been free to elaborate it. But when we see such impracticable theories as those of the Russian socialists actually materialize, with no immediate prospect of a more conventional system being established, any political theory seriously and persistently upheld by a strong group may be a reality in the unknown future.
The temporal sovereignty of the Pope is not usually defended as an integral and original part of the Catholic faith, but as a necessary and convenient arrangement, founded in law, supported by tradition, and justified by experience. The law by which it was founded is, to be sure, now substituted by the Italian Guarantees, but a legal basis for it is still claimed. Thus the temporal sovereignty consists of a tradition established in law.
It is unnecessary to return to the universally discredited imperial grants to which the Holy See once resorted. It is sufficient for our purpose that it was a political fact, created by Sixtus IV, Alexander VI, and Julius II in particular; a necessary development forced on the Popes by the weakness and insecurity of their position in the Italy of the 15th and 16th centuries. Ambassadors were sent and received in the See's dealings with other Powers. Because of his commanding position the Pope often acted as arbiter in international disputes. To reinforce his findings, the Pontiff added the ecclesiastical penalties of admonition, censure, excommunication, and the interdict. He claimed the right, often successfully, to establish and depose rulers, and to apportion newly discovered lands. Clerical privilege and immunities were also thus secured and enforced.
On the other hand, it must be recollected that secular Powers, while granting legates and nuncios precedence over other am
bassadors, observed this practice out of respect to the highest dignitary of the Catholic Church, and not because of his standing as a temporal sovereign. The Oecumenical councils, when receiving ambassadors from temporal rulers, therefore gave them precedence over the representatives of the Pope. In spite of ecclesiastical penalties by which obedience was ineffectively sought, the Popes have without result condemned international treaties drawn up in opposition to or independently of the Pontiff's desires, e. g., the Bull Zelo Domus Dei annulling the treaties of Münster and Osnabrück. Such ineffectiveness is a practical denial of sovereignty, and indeed American and English authorities customarily ignore the entire question, inspired by the pragmatic conceptions which govern English common law. Furthermore, formal diplomatic relations are hardly more than an uneven ceremony with incidental advantages all on one side, unless there is an exchange of representatives. Thus while Russia and Germany dispatched ambassadors to the Holy See, they did not receive papal legates, and although England now maintains a diplomatic representative near the Holy See, recognition as a temporal sovereign is not thereby accorded the Pontiff.
One of the chief reasons for the maintenance of the temporal power as even a legal fiction would be the exchange of resident agents for the making and observance of concordats. Even so, these are not international treaties between sovereign powers, but instruments by which several states elect to dispose of internal matters of discipline. Besides, where such instruments have never existed or have been abrogated, these internal arrangements are usually and satisfactorily made without reference to the State at all. As long as any body of citizens chooses to accept alien authority in matters which do not disturb domestic peace, there is no conflict with the State's sovereign interest, and consequently no necessity for the maintenance of diplomatic envoys. Hence, also, there is no need for territorial independence, or temporal sovereignty for the Pontiff. But this is anticipating a later part of this discussion.